The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) will on Sunday convene a high-level meeting on the need for Africa to embark on a digital identification drive.
The meeting will be held on the margins of the extraordinary AU Summit to discuss opportunities, risks and lessons for Digital ID in the African context, ECA disclosed in a statement on Friday.
While a few African countries have already made progress in developing Digital ID systems as a basis for legal IDs, Africa as a whole is yet to fully harness the benefits of digital ID.
The joint high-level meeting is meant to help member states accelerate the attainment of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, recently announced that the organisation and its partners were embarking on a digital ID initiative to support the harmonisation and implementation of digital identification platforms in Africa.
Leveraging the ongoing technological revolution on the continent, digital ID will enhance inclusion on the continent, as well as to facilitate trade in the context of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“Africa cannot continue to make policy in the blind because we do not have the data on our people. As we have seen from countries like India, the benefits of digital identification are immense and these include political and economic inclusion,” said Songwe.
Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member states are working on the initiative to define the minimum requirements for the establishment of Digital ID platforms in African countries to maximize benefits for country and continental aspirations, while minimizing associated risks.
This will ensure, among others, universal coverage, interoperability across other systems and across countries while respecting country sovereignty, as well as safeguarding data security and ownership.
The Digital ID Initiative will be harmonized with other ongoing work on the continent such as Legal ID and Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, which together form foundational identity systems.
It will support the promotion of a common understanding and implementation of Digital ID platforms in Africa, including providing capacity building to member states.
This work is being led by the ECA in collaboration with the AUC with support from external partners, including Omidyar Network and ISPIRT India.
Discussions are ongoing with the World Bank Group, the Africa Development Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation as potential technical and funding partners for the initiative.